A team of researchers led by professor of pharmaceutical sciences John Chaputa at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is developing methods for storing vast amounts of data on strands of synthetic DNA that are much tougher than natural DNA. The technique has already been used to encode the US Declaration of Independence on a single molecule.
One of the major problems of living in the information age is where to store all that data. Today, the world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day and the pace is accelerating to the point where 90 percent of all the data there is was generated in the past two years.
According to UCI, there are now about 44 zettabytes of data which, if stored conventionally, would require 44,000 15-million square-foot (1.394-million sq m) warehouses or enough to cover the state of West Virginia. On top of that, the present digital storage media are prone to deterioration over a relatively short time.
By contrast, the DNA molecule that controls every biological function has a staggering information density – about one petabyte per cubic millimeter. Chaputa estimates that’s enough to store all the world’s data in half a cup of liquid DNA. It’s an idea that researchers have been working on for some years, but there’s still a long way to go.